Embudo means "funnel" in Spanish, and this river certainly lives up to its name! Shortly after it is formed (at the confluence of the Rio Pueblo and Rio Santa Barbara), it plunges into a narrow granite gorge which contains 5 miles of continuous Class V to V+. This is old-school creeking; not really any big vertical drops to run, but extremely continuous rapids with big hydraulics. High-water runs are hectic, and there will be extended sections without being able to eddy out. In general the rapids are very clean, smooth, water-polished granite drops. There are very few strainers and sieves, so the primary danger is flush drowning.
This is an isolated area with an Indian reservation near the put-in and a conservative Hispanic community near the takeout. They don't like boaters or outsiders, period. Harassment in the past has included throwing kayaks into the rapids while you're scouting, firing shots off in your direction, and vandalizing your car. This usually has been the result of out-of-state boaters driving through town at 60 mph with a stack of boats on the roof; Can you say "easy target?" It's best to drive slowly in this area, be respectful, and keep a low profile. If you do that, you probably will have no problems.
Check out pics of Rio Embudo (and many other Central Rockies classics) taken at Low and Medium water levels.To get there:Do not park at the highway bridge takeout (as described in Colorado Rivers and Creeks, II).
The "arroyo" takeout is the preferred takeout.
Check newmexicoh2o.com for details on the put-in/take-out; They are difficult to find.
The reaches of the Taos Box area are:
Absolutely a classic run. Check out the Embudo Facebook page for flows, updates, boating partners, etc. Don't take this place lightly though -its gnar.
The gage is not reliable. Ask about flows before putting on.
This is one of those runs where inches of difference on the gauge equate to feet of difference in the water level in the gorges.
The run gets progressively better up to 3.3 (the ideal level); Above that it bets progressively scarier and HUGE!
At low water (<3.0) this is a bony Class IV/V run.
At medium (3.0-3.3) it gets harder/pushier and rates a solid Class V. This is the best level for the Lower Gorge.
At high water (>3.4) this run changes character considerably and becomes a solid V+ that should be attempted only by those who are familiar with the run. The flush drowning risk is extreme. It is advisable to not run the lower gorge at high flows. Everything has been run up to about 4.6, a truly mind-bending sick level.
Both Guidebooks use the old feet/stick numbers. The following correlation, obtained from the Embudo Facebook page, can be useful for determing the level when using those numbers.
At all levels, keep in mind that this is a remote gorge with little to no chance of escape if things go wrong! It is good idea to check the Embudo Facebook page for current conditions and levels.
How to estimate the flow using a virtual guage, from atom via the embudo facebook page.
"The only way to truly judge the CFS is to Subtract the CFS flow from the RIO GRANDE BLW TAOS JUNCTION BRIDGE NEAR TAOS Gauge from the RIO GRANDE AT EMBUDO Gauge."
RIO GRANDE BLW TAOS JUNCTION: USGS page, American Whitewater page
RIO GRANDE AT EMBUDO: USGS page, American Whitewater page
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
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Entrance to Slots
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If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
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For the first time in 34 years, the Gila National Forest is revising their forest-wide Management Plan. On Friday, January 17 they officially released the Draft Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIS) for a 90-day comment period ending on April 16. Forest Plans are vitally important as they are the blueprint for resource management and they provide an opportunity to secure better protections for rivers and their surrounding landscapes. As part of the plan revision process, the Forest Service is required to rely heavily on public input to inform management direction, plan components, and new designated areas. Read more for a complete schedule of Public Meetings that are happening this week!
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